Study Notes

1Thessalonians 1:1-10

Dated by historians as written in 51AD, 1Thessalonians is the first book of the New Testament to be written. In spite of its early writing and short length, it covers so many topics and major points of doctrine: Salvation by grace; faith and works; predestination and sanctification; the Holy Spirit and the gift of prophecy; the Rapture, the Great Tribulation, and the second coming of Christ.

1:1 The Church At Thessalonica

To understand how the church at Thessalonica began, we must read the first ten verses of Acts 17.

Acts 17:1-10 ...they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. And according to Paul's custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and {saying,} "This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ." And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, along with a great multitude of the God-fearing Greeks and a number of the leading women. But the Jews, becoming jealous and taking along some wicked men from the market place, formed a mob and set the city in an uproar; and coming upon the house of Jason, they were seeking to bring them out to the people. And when they did not find them, they {began} dragging Jason and some brethren before the city authorities, shouting, "These men who have upset the world have come here also; and Jason has welcomed them, and they all act contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus." And they stirred up the crowd and the city authorities who heard these things. And when they had received a pledge from Jason and the others, they released them. And the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea...

From the Scriptures, Paul reasoned in the synagogue for three sabbaths. This means he was in Thessalonica between just 15 and 22 days. But some of the Jews and many of the Greeks became believers. Less than a year later, Paul sits down to write this letter.

Grace And Peace

Grace to you and peace. Why are we always reading that? Because of the 27 books that make up the New Testament, 17 of them contain this greeting - and it is never "peace and grace." Why does grace always come first?

Grace refers to God's unmerited favor. We were sinners, deserving of hell, certainly not salvation. We weren't on our way to being better people. We weren't showing signs of turning good. We weren't doing great works that made us attractive to God. He simply saved us because He loved us - He did it purely out of grace.

Rom. 5:8 ...God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

There is nothing we did to deserve this favor, this blessing. It was totally God's grace.

Acts 15:11 "...We are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus..."

And when you finally realize that it's not your righteousness, but God's righteousness that has saved you, that's where peace comes in. When you finally understand that you didn't earn, nor are you keeping, your salvation based on good behavior, then you don't feel condemned anymore - you're not constantly afraid you've lost your salvation. It's God's righteousness, it's God's faithfulness, it's God's grace that keeps you. When you realize that, then you can rest and relax. Then you know that you are secure in His hands. Then you have peace.

People that don't understand grace don't have peace. So the expression "grace and peace" is sprinkled all throughout the New Testament.

1:2 Giving Thanks In Prayer

Paul says, "Guys, we're always thanking God for you in our prayers." I wonder how many of us can say that our prayers always include thanksgiving? How many of our prayers are selfish and self-centered, focusing on what I need, what I want, what I expect?

Col. 4:2 Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving

Even the promise of the peace that passes understanding carries a prerequisite of prayer with thanksgiving.

Phil. 4:6-7 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

As Paul wraps up this letter, he will remind them,

1Ths. 5:18 in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

Give thanks in all circumstances and situations - it's God's will.

1:3 Bearing In Mind

Paul remembers how he knew that these folks in Thessalonica were genuinely saved. It was demonstrated powerfully, clearly, in three distinct ways: their work of faith, their labor of love, and their steadfastness of hope.

Faith, hope, and love are inseparably linked. For example,

1Cor. 13:13 But now abide faith, hope, love

Col. 1:4-5 ...we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love which you have for all the saints; because of the hope laid up for you in heaven

This trio also arises in Galatians 5, Hebrews 6, Hebrews 10, and 1Peter 1. Paul saw the Thessalonians' genuine salvation evidenced by them.

Work Of Faith

First of all, their conversion was demonstrated to be real by their work of faith. Their faith was evident and obvious by their works.

Faith and works are two words that many people have difficulty putting together. This is because the Jews were trying to pursue righteousness before God by their works, not by their faith. This was terribly wrong. Romans 3 says,

Rom. 3:28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.

Galatians 2 says,

Gal. 2:16 nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus

Hebrews 6 tells us that one of the basic foundations of the faith is

Hebr. 6:1 ...repentance from dead works and of faith toward God,

Lots of us have memorized Ephesians 2:8-9

Eph. 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, {it is} the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast.

Hopefully we all have a handle on the fact that works never saved anybody - it is by faith. That having been said, I now assert this: Our salvation is not gained by our works, but it is proven by our works. Our faith is displayed by our works. Our new life with Christ is evidenced in our works.

A lot of Christians say, "I'm saved by grace, don't put a works trip on me." But the Bible is clear that while we are not saved by works, a person who is truly born again will evidence that by his works. James wrote,

James 2:18 ...I will show you my faith by my works."

James 2:26 without works is dead.

If you have no works to display your salvation, can you hear what James says?

James 2:20 But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?

The Bible continually proves people's faith by their actions.

James 2:21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar?

James 2:25 And in the same way was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works, when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?

Hebrews 11, often referred to as "the Hall of Faith," proves Abel's faith by his sacrifice, Noah's faith by building the ark, Abraham's faith by his obedience, Moses' faith by his works, Rahab's faith by her works, and many more people whom verse 33 says "performed acts of righteousness."

This church that was less than a year old had radically proven their true faith by their works.

Labor Of Love

Secondly, Paul cites their labor of love as evidence of the genuineness of their salvation. Just as faith is proved by its works, love is demonstrated by labor. Now the word labor here means to work until you're weary, and exhausted.

By nature, I have a low metabolism. I'm subject to sleepiness, and really hate putting in an eight or nine hour day working for someone else. But working twelve to twenty hour days to serve the Lord and all of you - it's not a burden for me, it's a labor of love.

I see people's love for God and for His children manifested in that laboring. When Charlie our deacon hauls boxes of Bibles up the stairs, I see his love for God and for us in his labor. When Ilza sorts and folds hundreds of pounds of clothing for the clothes closet, I see her love for God and for His children in her labor. When Mark stays up late studying the book of Galatians to teach the youth group and write their devotional newsletter, I see his love for God and for each of us in his labor. When I see names on the nursery schedule, I see their love for God and for His people in their labor.

The apostle John wrote,

1John 2:15-17 Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. And the world is passing away, and {also} its lusts; but the one who does the will of God abides forever.

The proof of love is exhaustive labor. And I know that each of us is probably exhausting ourselves with something. The question you must ask yourself is, "Are you exhausting yourself for the Lord, or are you exhausting yourself for the world?"

Steadfastness Of Hope

The third thing that showed Paul the Thessalonians' faith was genuine was their steadfastness of hope. The word steadfastness means, "an active constancy in the face of difficulties."

The hope we have in Christ is not the wishful hope like, "I sure hope I win the lottery," or "I really hope I get that bicycle for my birthday." It is the expectant hope of Christ's return, and our heavenly future. The hope we have in Christ is sure. Even though the future hasn't happened yet, God has already seen it, and it is sure.

"In the New Testament, hope is always something that is as yet future, but that is completely certain." (Morris)

It's a done deal.

Hebr. 11:1(KJV) Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

In other words, just as memory is the proof of what has happened, hope is the proof of what will happen.

Rom. 5:5 ...hope does not disappoint...

Rom. 8:24-25 ...hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one also hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.

Although the Thessalonians had come upon much opposition, they were steadfast in their hope.

1:4-5 His Choice Of You

God's choice of us. The book of Ephesians says,

Eph. 1:4-5 ...He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will,

Before we were born, God chose us to be His. That is a loving blessing to me. And it should be a blessing to all who hear it, but it has become a point of contention. People get upset and say, "I can't believe that! What if I wasn't chosen? Was I created just to go to hell?" The fact is, predestination is a great mystery which we cannot completely understand. You see, God has made it clear that He has predestined us. But He has also made it clear that salvation is available to anyone.

John 3:16 ...whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.

Mark 8:34 ...If anyone wishes to come after Me..."

2Pet. 3:9 ...not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.

How can we reconcile the sovereignty of God with the free will of man? How can we understand two truths that seem to be mutually exclusive? For me, I simply understand this to be true:

Rom. 8:29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined...

I believe that as God saw our future, He knew in advance who would choose Him, and predestined them accordingly. Because no one will go to heaven against their will, and no one who wants to go to hell will be kept from it. Maybe you're wondering if God has predestined you. How can you know? Receive Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, and you'll know that you were predestined. You'll know that...

2Ths. 2:13 ...God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.

Paul knew by the evidence of the Thessalonians' faith, hope, and love that God had indeed chosen them.

1:6-7 Imitators

The apostle Paul told the Corinthian church,

1Cor. 11:1 Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.

There are people among us who can partially represent to us the heart and character of Christ. When you see someone who has Christlike characteristics, imitate those characteristics. This man studies the Word of God diligently - imitate that. That woman shows loving mercy to all she meets - imitate that. Another believer is the personification of joy - imitate that.

Hebr. 13:7 Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith.

Look around at the Christians among you, and imitate them where they imitate Christ. As you do that, you become an example to other believers, and a witness to the world.

1:8 Sounding Forth

It was all over the country - "Those Thessalonians have been radically saved!" Paul is saying, "I haven't had to tell people what happened in Thessalonica - they're telling me!" That's how awesome your faith is being talked about!

I happened to meet someone in our community several months back. I was sharing the Lord with him, and telling him about the church and the awesome way peoples' lives were being changed. When I found out where he worked, I said, "Oh, do you know so and so? He works there too." The response was, "Yeah, you know, that guy is someone that really needs to go to your church." I was greatly grieved, for you see that person already went to our church. His life was sounding quite a different message than the Thessalonians.

1:9-10 Faith, Love, And Hope Manifested

Paul had heard from people everywhere that the fruit was abundant:

Their work of faith showed because they turned to God from idols.

Their labor of love demonstrated because they served the living and true God.

Their steadfastness of hope was that they were waiting for His Son from heaven.

The chapter ends with the assurance that Jesus,

1Ths. 1:10 ...delivers us from the wrath to come.

Before we finish the book of 1Thessalonians, we will have much opportunity to talk about this wrath that will come upon the world, and about the incredible deliverance from that wrath that Jesus Christ has for His church.

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